Marquardt's Phi mask: pitfalls of relying on fashion models and the golden ratio to describe a beautiful face

Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2008 Mar;32(2):200-8. doi: 10.1007/s00266-007-9080-z.


Background: Stephen Marquardt has derived a mask from the golden ratio that he claims represents the "ideal" facial archetype. Many have found his mask convincing, including cosmetic surgeons. However, Marquardt's mask is associated with numerous problems. The method used to examine goodness of fit with the proportions in the mask is faulty. The mask is ill-suited for non-European populations, especially sub-Saharan Africans and East Asians. The mask also appears to approximate the face shape of masculinized European women. Given that the general public strongly and overwhelmingly prefers above average facial femininity in women, white women seeking aesthetic facial surgery would be ill-advised to aim toward a better fit with Marquardt's mask. This article aims to show the proper way of assessing goodness of fit with Marquardt's mask, to address the shape of the mask as it pertains to masculinity-femininity, and to discuss the broader issue of an objective assessment of facial attractiveness.

Methods: Generalized Procrustes analysis is used to show how goodness of fit with Marquardt's mask can be assessed. Thin-plate spline analysis is used to illustrate visually how sample faces, including northwestern European averages, differ from Marquardt's mask.

Results: Marquardt's mask best describes the facial proportions of masculinized white women as seen in fashion models.

Conclusions: Marquardt's mask does not appear to describe "ideal" face shape even for white women because its proportions are inconsistent with the optimal preferences of most people, especially with regard to femininity.

MeSH terms

  • Beauty*
  • Esthetics*
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Social Desirability*
  • White People